5 Essential Ice Fishing Facts: New Series “Ice Holes” Premieres Tonight!

Summertime is here, and many Americans are going out on boats or casting off the side of piers to nab a bigger and better catch than last year. But while seasonal anglers may prefer the warmer months, others won’t be stopped by winter weather or freezing lakes. This Friday, catch the premiere of the all-new National Geographic Channel series “Ice Holes,” which follows a group of ice fishermen as they seek to beat each other in winter fishing derbies and unofficial competitions.

Here are a few essential things you need to know about ice fishing to get you ready for Friday’s episode:

1. Summer fishing gear probably won’t cut it.

Although there are several forms of ice fishing popular in the US, one of the most common methods is called “jigging.” Jigging refers to the type of lure on the fishing pole, used year-round by anglers globally. Ice anglers often use specialized equipment to enhance their catch. Used by some ice fisherman, a “tip up” is a type of free-standing fishing rod. When a fish takes the bait, its pull on the line raises a small flag, alerting the ice fisherman to a bite. Many ice anglers set up multiple tip ups, reeling in more fish from different locations on the ice.

ice fishing


2. Ice anglers have homes on the ice.

Well, kind of. Fishermen developed special shelters to help cope with the physical demands that ice fishing exerts on anglers, the hours of waiting in punishingly frigid temperatures and the possibility of hours or days away from food and shelter, fittingly called “ice houses.” Occasionally referred to as “bob houses” or “ice shanties,” the small ice houses are usually made of wood or plastic that can be dragged out onto the ice. Many are the angler’s construction, built or retrofitted for particular specifications and needs. Bob houses are oftentimes outfitted with gear for fishing such as depth finders, holes inside for fishing through the ice (without leaving the shelter), but many are homes on the ice, with generators, kitchenettes, beds and even satellite TV. People also tend to get, well, creative with their houses.

ice houses


3. Ice fishing is very popular.

It may not be as glamorous as big-game, deep-sea fishing or as relaxing as lakeside spring fishing, ice angling is still wildly popular for cold-weather states and countries across North America, Europe, and Asia. Winter fish make up nearly 25 percent of all fish caught during the year in states like Wisconsin. Every year, 10,000 anglers trek out onto Minnesota’s Gull Lake ice for the world’s largest ice fishing contest, where prizes totaling $150,000 are offered up for grabs.

Ice Fishing Russia


4. These ain’t your grandpa’s ice fishermen.

Like any other sport, ice fishing is getting increasingly advanced technologically. But the fishermen aren’t just using better equipment when the fish decides to bite – they’re using it to find fish themselves. One of these tools is called a “flasher.” A sonar device which helps ice fisherman identify spots where fish are plentiful, the flasher also allows fishermen to check the depth of water and the content of the bottom. For example, rainbow fish like sandy-bottom areas, so a fisherman could use the flasher to find these sandy places to bait the trout.

high tech


5. Ice fishing can be fairly safe – bearing in mind the ice.

While thousands of Americans do it successfully each year, ice fishing can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Ice also doesn’t freeze uniformly, and thick, walkable patches can border flimsy, thin ice. Even a foot of older ice can be weaker than four inches of new ice, and underwater currents such as moving schools of fish can push warm water to the surface. Luckily, in the US many authorities at national parks, resorts and other fishing enterprises often check the ice, and can direct anglers to the safest spots for fishing. But even with the proper precautions, anomalies can occur: in March 2013, Latvian ice anglers were stranded for several hours when their sheet of ice separated from the mainland ice and drifted 2.5 miles into the Gulf of Riga.

thin ice


Ice Holes dives into the frigid world of competitive ice fishing, following a tight-knit group of colorful fishermen as they compete against Mother Nature and each other every weekend. These ice fishing fanatics have waited nine months for temperatures to drop low enough to freeze the lakes so they can walk on water and drop in their lines. With personal bets for bragging rights and derby prizes sometimes reaching upwards of $150,000, these weekend warriors are willing to do whatever it takes to best their fishing buddies, catch the big one and win the money.

Don’t miss the series premiere of Ice Holes tonight at 10P.


  1. Chris B.
    June 3, 2014, 3:05 am

    This show is the WORST depiction of ice fishing and ice fishermen and women. I have been ice fishing for twenty years NEVER saw ANY ice fishermen or women act the way these people do. It’s a disgrace how these people act and you should get an entirely new cast. I’m sure there are lots of ice fishermen and women who would happily go one the show to give a true and accurate depiction of ice fishing. I know I would.

  2. Mike Peterson
    United States
    June 7, 2014, 11:33 pm

    This isn’t ice fishing. If you want to see real ice fishing go to Minnesota, you can’t ice fish when i’ts raining like in episode 1 of this show..

  3. Rebecca
    Gilford NH
    June 11, 2014, 10:55 am

    I’ve lived on Lake Winnipesaukee my entire life and ice fished for many years. There is now King of the Lake Derby. That’s all made up. I knew some people that were supposed to apepar on the show, actual people I grew up with. Nat Geo decided to go with actors. None of this stuff happens during the actual derby. Sure it’s crazy and fun and I’m sure there are antics from REAL fisherman. But this show is a disgrace. The people of New Hampshire should be appalled at the way Nat Geo is representing the state AND one of the most time honored tradition that thousands take seriously. Take it off the air Nat Geo and don’t come back to NH.

  4. sid fishes
    lake st. clair area,MI
    June 11, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Being an Nat geo and ice fishing enthusiast my whole life, I was excited to see they were producing a show on ice fishing. What a stinking joke, and what an embarrassment to the national geographic name. Nothing about what was going on out there had anything to do with real life ice fishing. Matter of fact, If you pulled that stuff on my lake, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t last very long before being escorted off or worse. Shame on you Nat geo for underestimating your audience, and assuming that what we were looking for in programming was akin to something we avoid on vh1 or the bravo network.

  5. Skip Wagmore
    June 14, 2014, 11:26 am

    Basically, this is the Red Green Show ice fishing. Some painfully stupid moments to be sure but I did find myself laughing out loud numerous times. However, if you’re looking for a serious documentary about ice fishing; this isn’t it.

  6. […] has demonstrated that they’re willing and capable to participate in all manners of ice sports: ice fishing, ice car-racing, ice pranking (this one, of course, is more informal).. But on Friday night’s […]

  7. The Real Deal
    July 29, 2014, 9:19 am

    These type of antics would not be tolerated on the ice. This show is seems to be more geared for entertainment purposes.

  8. Stephen Marsel
    Somerville MA
    November 27, 2014, 8:58 am

    CE HOLES has not been renewed. It has not been cancelled either. How would you change the show? Please be positive! ANY unnecessary negative comments will be deleted. If you have video of new potential cast members, locations, or descriptions of plots ideas – please let us know. Please share with your friends!

  9. donp
    December 9, 2014, 8:52 am

    The show will have negative thoughts from viewers. Unfortunately the ones that like it would assume because its a good show that it will stay. A good response is needed so that we HAVE A SHOW regardless of ones feelings about the show now. Ice fishing happens all over the world and what has been covered is minute to what needs to be shown. Bring back Ice Holes! I was hoping to see the US ice fishing team go up against Russia in one of the upcoming seasons..
    Tight lines.

  10. Jon Carter
    Douglas, ma
    February 10, 2015, 9:10 am

    Mass. Ice holers is our group name had that name since 04′ where is our deal. These guys u depict as so called ice fisherman, I don’t think so. Clowns total clowns watched 2 episodes and was disscussed with there lack of dignaty & decorum. Representing nat. geo. And ice fisherman world wide horrible 🙁 come to N. England the (Hub) where it all began. My group of ice fishing pros in our own minds, but depict much better than what you have now. Our group is located in the blacstone valley of Massachusetts. Guys w ova 50 yrs of experience & myself 32 yrs ice fishing since age 4.

  11. Dave Bergholm
    Fairlee, Vermont
    March 13, 2015, 7:05 am

    I know Steve Marsel understands the true culture of ice fishing. from the beginning, his interest in our north east winter passion was inspired by his own research. what aired on TV was not accurate for what we do. in my opinion, the people in charge of editing should have spent some time on the ice, instead of fishing for humor in a nice warm office. lets face it, everyone wants there moment of fame. unfortunately the excitement from this can make people be persuaded by suggestion to act out of there true character. the guys on the show know what I mean. and Steve! don’t forget the walk to the shanty. the true nature of us flag chasers starts there…..

  12. […] an ice-fishing hole with a manual auger can be physically tiring, so make sure you’re up for the task. Your shoulders […]

  13. adam
    wassila AK
    March 3, 1:05 pm

    ice fishing is very fun when you have the right gear!